Cheating on Valentine's Day

My husband and I have been married for more than 24 years. This October, we will celebrate our silver anniversary. We dated for 5 years before I could convince him to marry me, so we've been together more than half my life. I think it's about time I started cheating, don't you?

Tonight, I'm planning a delicious cheat meal for our Valentine's Day celebration. I refrained from drinking alcohol for the month of January--thank God that's over!!!--so I will include both red wine and dark beer as part of our special dinner. I've also been watching my sugar consumption carefully, so desserts have been off the table for more than a month. Tonight I'll serve a rich and decadent dessert to end our meal.

But that's not all the cheating I've got planned!

I purchased several of the dishes I'll serve tonight at Trader Joe's. Already prepared! (This might not be a shocker for some of you, but I try to cook from scratch most of the time.)

I couldn't find the French onion tarte, so I had to settle for the spinach and kale pie. I'm sure it will be delicious.

Here is my complete menu:

Arugula salad with sliced apples and brie (my husband is a cheese fanatic)
Venison tenderloin with feta cheese and olives (more cheese)
Spinach and kale pie (there is cheese in this, too)
Lava cakes with crumbled bacon and whipped cream served with Sweet Baby Jesus (a delicious dark beer brewed by DuClaw in Baltimore)

The spinach and kale pie needs 45 minutes in the oven, so that will go in first. While the pie is baking, I'll cook 2 slices of bacon in a cast iron skillet. Once the fat is completely rendered from the bacon, I'll remove it from the pan and drain thoroughly. Then I'll sear the venison tenderloin in the hot bacon fat on all sides. The tenderloin should be served medium rare, so I'll just tent it with foil and let it rest after searing. I'll toss the arugula in a honey mustard dressing (homemade!) and slice up an apple. Then I'll cut wedges of brie to go on the side of the salad plates. The salad can be served while the pie finishes cooking. Then I'll slice the tenderloin, sprinkle with fresh feta and serve it next to slices of spinach pie with kalamata olives on the side. I won't heat up the lava cakes until we're ready for dessert. They only take 15 minutes to bake and should be served warm.

We usually go out to a restaurant to celebrate Valentine's Day, but I think this semi-homemade meal is going to be just as romantic, even more delicious, and way less expensive. Sure, I could have saved money by making everything from scratch, but I'd also be way more stressed out. (You may recall my tales of Thanksgiving meals which begin and end in tears.)

Wishing all my readers a very happy V.D. Hug your loved ones and remember to let them know how much you love them. Today and always.